With spring comes an abundance of fresh herbs. But, do you understand how to use fresh herbs in cooking?
Take rosemary, for example. If you chew a sprig of rosemary, it tastes pungent and bitter and also leaves an irritating numbing sensation on your tongue. However, if you rub a sprig of rosemary between your fingers and smell it, the fragrance is warm, woodsy, and inviting. This is because your nose, not your tongue, has the largest role in deciphering flavours. Knowing this can transform the way you use fresh herbs in cooking, it can even make you fall in love with ones you didn’t think you liked – like cilantro!
Fresh Herbs Add Fragrance And Flavour To Your Food
Understanding the science of flavour is key to using fresh herbs. Flavour is built up of two chemical senses: taste, but mostly smell. Without the sense of smell, you would only be able to differentiate between 5 basic tastes: sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and umami. It’s our sense of smell that allows us to distinguish between 10,000 different flavours. It’s the exact reason why everything tastes bland when we have a sinus cold. Have you ever eaten a pear with a stuffed nose? It tastes like a sweet apple, not a fragrant pear.
The fragrant oils in herbs can be categorized into 3 groups to help us achieve specific flavours – Top Notes, Middle Notes, and Base Notes.
Top Notes are perceived right away. They are delicate and quick to fade – like cilantro and chives. Middle Notes are strong and long-lasting, but not as bright as Top Notes. Base Notes are the slowest to evaporate; their rich, heavy scents emerge slowly and linger – like thyme and rosemary. Understanding how these notes work together can help you achieve amazing depth of flavour in food.
How to Use Fresh Herbs in Cooking
Remember, delicate herbs don’t do well with high heat. They’re best used fresh or just cooked. If heated too long, their flavour dissipates into thin air, leaving little to no flavour behind. Sturdier herbs have a woody stem, generally have robust flavours, can withstand being paired with big rich flavours, and do well in higher heat and longer cooking times.
Fresh herbs are what transform basic foods into flavourful dishes that are memorable. Fresh herbs are great for enhancing flavour in health conscious meals, they enrich taste without adding calories or fat! They can be added to compliment a dish in their whole leaf form or they can be cut, mashed, or ground into a paste to infuse their essential oils directly into the dish. Remember: the finer the herb is cut, the greater the exposed surface area and the stronger the flavour they’ll add to a dish.
Substitute Dried Herbs For Fresh Herbs.
If a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of dried herbs, you can substitute that for 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs.